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Letter to the editor: Lawsuit against Bristol part of fight vs. global warming

Having been identified as one of the “two on the Bristol Energy Committee are members of the group of 37 suing the town,” I need to make some things clear. Several points:
Regarding the legal action taken against the selectboard: people around the state are beginning to take action to regain their democracy that has been eroded by our own lack of attention or indifference. The Bristol selectboard, probably for convenience, had forged ahead on the pipeline issue without consulting with the properly appointed Energy Committee, as directed in the town plan:
Bristol Town Plan: section 6: “Careful planning will be necessary to meet the energy needs of Bristol’s residents and businesses at a time of rapid technological, environmental, and economic change. This will require both a spirit of innovation and close coordination with the Bristol Energy Committee and with statewide agencies such as Efficiency Vermont.” And Section 6. D. Goals, No. 2: “The town will support the Bristol Energy Committee and give consideration to energy efficiencies and conservation when engaged in residential and economic planning.”
Given that such consultation was not done, a group of citizens requested, by petition, that the selectboard authorize a straw poll to determine citizens’ opinion on the issue of the pipeline. The selectboard authorized the agreement with the gas company before acting on the petition, making any poll meaningless. So, to take back our voices, a number of us, as citizens, engaged in legal action.
Regarding pipeline expansion: no rational person can deny the reality of Climate Change and our role in creating it. (See The Fourth National Climate Assessment: Volume II.) And it is hard to deny that it is affecting us now, even here in New England: more two-day rain events causing flooding, erratic weather patterns including extended heat and cold events, advancement of disease-bearing ticks and mosquitos and on and on. And this is just the beginning. Sustainable energy production such as solar, wind, biomass, and others are becoming cheaper and more dependable than any fossil fuel. Given that, investing in fossil fuel infrastructure makes no sense because it will soon be outdated. And trying to extend it only leads to more carbon emissions that add to the climate problem. Individual investment in converting to natural gas heating systems and appliances will become money wasted. And, though proponents claim the opposite, natural gas is not cleaner than oil when you track emissions from the wellhead. Bristol, and all towns in Vermont, are revising their energy plans to meet Vermont state goals of 90 percent carbon reduction by 2050. We are working on that now and it is clear that encouraging natural gas use is not going to help reach that goal. So the Bristol Energy Committee is encouraging weatherization (the most efficient way to reduce carbon), and the use of alternative, sustainable, cost-effective sources of energy, regardless of whether the pipeline comes through.
I understand cost concerns; we live in a 150-year-old house. But we’ve put our money in weatherization and efficient heating systems to reduce costs, and we’re still working on it. So, rather than fighting over 20th century technologies that will trap us in a morass of problems, let’s work together to make Bristol a 21st century model for Vermont. And let’s not forget the most important factor: what we do or do not do now will impact our kids, grandkids and all future generations. I’m sure we all want to do the right thing for them.
Richard Butz
Bristol

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